Thursday, June 6, 2013

eat more vegetables

If you had knocked on my door on Tuesday afternoon, you would have found me in a little bit of a kitchen frenzy.  And when I say frenzy, I mean a pots-all-over-the-kitchen, cabinet-doors-hanging-open, dishwasher-running, oven-baking, every-single-burner-going, food-all-over-everything type of frenzy.  You see, I sort of got a wild cooking hair on Tuesday and so while Annabel took a nap, I took to the kitchen.  That morning I had started making homemade chicken stock from the bones of the whole chicken I bought last week.  Since it had boiled down considerably, I poured it into my slow cooker to let it keep doing it's thing.  So while that was bubbling away, I split a spaghetti squash and threw it in the oven with some olive oil and salt and pepper for 30 minutes.  Then I put 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water in a saucepan and heated it up until all the sugar was dissolved.  After that, I started cutting strawberries and made another batch of jam.  For dinner, I baked up some sweet potatoes, steamed some broccoli, and made some chicken with lemon and artichokes.  For dessert, baked stuffed acorn squash.  I don't really know what came over me, but I can't tell you how happy I was to see all those pretty glass jars full of jam and syrup and chicken stock sitting on my counter, and know that I had fed my family a healthy evening meal.  

Spaghetti squash might be my most favorite vegetable.

 And with that, I think I'm officially out of my food rut.  

Reading about the Paleo lifestyle and cooking Paleo recipes these last few weeks has taught me one really big lesson which is this:  in order to eat more vegetables, you have to cook more vegetables.  

I know what you're thinking:  "Duh.  You needed a book to teach you that?!"

I know, I know, but what I realized after all this time is that when I cook vegetables, I usually cook only what I think I need.  So instead of cooking an entire head of broccoli, I only cook what I think the four of us can eat for dinner.  Or instead of making the whole bunch of asparagus, I only cook half of it.  Or instead of cooking all of the spinach/turnip greens/beet greens/collard greens/mustard greens, I only make enough for me (with a tiny bit extra for Annabel and the boys).  And do you know what only cooking half of the vegetable-of-the-night leads to?  Disgusting, wilted, brown, slimy leftover forgotten-in-the-bottom-of-the-crisper-drawer vegetables.  At least that's what it leads to in my house.  Maybe you don't have that problem.  And in that case, congratulations and good for you. (Just don't tell me!)  :)

Cooking more vegetables than you know your family can eat in one meal leads to leftovers stocked in the fridge for the toughest meal of the day (at least it's my toughest meal):  lunch.  Knowing that all I have to do for lunch is heat up some leftover vegetables and maybe cook an egg or a chicken or turkey sausage alongside them in the pan makes it so much easier for me to eat at home instead of being tempted to pick something up on my way home from wherever Annabel and I have been on any given morning.  If I actually had to cut up and fully cook those veggies, there's no way I'd eat them for lunch. 

And while you're cooking more vegetables, why not cook more meat?  Instead of buying expensive cuts of chicken, last week I bought a whole chicken from the farmer's market, cooked it, and made two dinners, two lunches, and chicken stock from it.  From a 3 pound bird!  Win!  

So really, my whole approach to cooking has changed.  I used to try to avoid leftovers like the plague, and now I make sure there are always leftovers.  Not leftover heavy, starchy foods, but instead, meat and veggies, which for me, gives me more energy and keeps me feeling better throughout the afternoon.  I know this approach to eating doesn't work for everyone - I'm not even following it completely (just this morning I had a piece of toast with that perfect strawberry jam) - but for me, I feel so much better when I eat mostly gluten-, legume-, and refined-sugar-free.  

Regardless of whether or not you follow the Paleo lifestyle, chances are you could probably stand to add a few more vegetables to your diet (couldn't we all?!).  Cooking more and having leftovers offers up a variety of ways to use them the next day.  Scramble with eggs for breakfast, add to a quiche for dinner, heat and put them in a tortilla for lunch. Stuff into a a pizza...quesadilla...the possibilities are endless.  

Oh, and in case you were wondering, you should really try that acorn squash.  Yum.  I got this idea from my Practical Paleo book, but didn't keep it totally Paleo since I didn't have any coconut butter.  Here's how I made it:

Preheat your oven to 375.  Cut an acorn squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and place in a baking dish.  Fill the middle with a combination of oats (not quick cooking), slivered almonds or other nuts, sweetened coconut, and raisins (I didn't measure anything - just put in however much you like).  On top of that, add about a teaspoon of brown sugar and 1/2 a tablespoon of butter.  Sprinkle the entire thing with cinnamon and sea salt.  Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the squash is fork-tender.  Perfect for breakfast or dessert......or anytime, really.

Hey, it's almost Friday!  Have a great day!

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